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The Preparation of the Novel

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EST. READING TIME

10 minutes
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1. CONSPIRACY

Idea for a story

A whale feels happy and free at sea during the 2013 protests in Brazil and Turkey. This is not a novel but a minor plot in a greater thing.

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Idea for a story

A group of young, mysterious and fully sexualized homosexual men meet in Fortaleza in the nineties. Eroticism is not an answer to Christianity, a response to African or Eastern influences and even less "a return to Indian wildness". The task is impossible but these are the outlines.

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Idea for a story

A dream is actually happening but the tone is not cloudy or carnivalesque.

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Idea for a story

A person who writes totalizing novels and raw autobiographies with equal skill (but obviously not in the same book).

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Idea for a story

An honest and elevated portrait of an injustice that proudly rejects irony, collage and metafictional bullshit, all the while reversing common rhetoric and vocabulary about the injustice in question.

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Idea for a story

An old man recalls his early years as a sensualist. The text is nostalgic and free of irony or dirty jokes about sex. He will be remembered as "a minor gem even though his style is far more elegant than those of his peers".

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Idea for a story

An autobiography of a young homosexual soccer player written in the style of the worst of Brazilian contemporary fiction: there is no distance, it is ready to be celebrated as another commercialized “identity”. The novel is rediscovered twenty years later and is perceived as far more subtle and self-conscious than it initially seemed. The author remains unknown.

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Idea for a story

A mysterious voice educates a bunch of very young aesthetes in 2000s Brazil, online. The form taken is a collective biography told by these writers, now middle-aged. The person behind the voice never appears and descriptions are contradictory. When chat logs finally reveal it, the voice emerges as threatening and amusing. The book is supposed to be “the story of a generation.”

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Idea for a story

A researcher explodes a bomb during an international conference killing himself and everyone else. Motivations are not clear. This is supposed to be a very short story.

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Idea for a story

A novel about urban violence in South America without any scene or description of violence which makes everything more strange.

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Idea for a story

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2. THE WHALE

Hypotheses on how to write a whale in the 21st century

  1. If a whale is not dressed, it cannot be naked. Notions of nudity, decency or indecency do not concern the whale.
  2. The whale is highly sexualized and expels tons of body fluids of love into the ocean. 
  3. Monstrosity does not mean the whale is an enemy. Avoid the theme of the whale as catastrophe.
  4. The whale is not a symbol of "return to pre-capitalist nature", but a projection. The whale does not position itself against urbanization or technology.
  5. "Socialization: Whales are known to teach, learn, cooperate, scheme, and even grieve." (Wikipedia) The image of a grieving whale.
  6. Does the whale dream? Which form for a whale's dream? Suspense.

 

3. TECHNICOLOR

Idea for a story

Young literary rebel flees his Catholic and colonial past to a great Western metropolis in order to pursue his passion. Long after his rebellion against Christianity, he realizes that religion in his tropics was a caricature of Catholicism, a faded if insistent imitation that could hardly push him to transgress its values because these are themselves rarefied. He would never have a "great monotheism" behind him, but he doesn’t know it yet: he keeps on dramatizing choices of freedom in situations where maybe there were no particular impediments, or if they were they could not be identified. There is not a reasonable solution for him because his life was fraudulent from the beginning for reasons beyond his existence. He accepts happily his illegitimacy all the while suspecting we are all imitations in a way or another and lives out the fiction prepared for him.

4. WRETCHED: A SEQUENCE IN THREE PARTS

Idea for a story. Mother-and-daughter relationship, Brazilian Northeast, 2000s. Tyrannical mother wants her child to stay with her forever and have a successful political career. The daughter wants to write fiction. The form taken is a harsh autobiography told by the mother, but the book is actually written by the daughter, Joana, decades later. Joana's transition to adulthood appears in the last pages, her name in the novel is Clara. Clara lives in Berlin, she is a married lesbian, has a child, writes books, eats "organic" food, she leads an automatic Western life. She realizes that, like her mother, she never faced the idea of choice. The novel shuts with an abrupt exchange between Clara and her mother, now sick in a hospital in Natal, who tells her daughter, Maybe we're both proud. Both wretched.

Idea for a story. Father-and-son relationship, Brazil, 2000s. Catholic agriculturist despises his son's introversion and dependence on video games and the internet. The son is very aware of a sense of superiority and uses it as an armor against what he understands as a claustrophobic environment. Suddenly a bomb explodes, the economy collapses and the book becomes a post-apocalyptic tale. Father and son struggle for survival and end up dying. This is not a story of love and reconciliation. It does not turn apocalypse into a fetish. Or technology. It is not comic. It makes clear that both men were far from being awakened spirits and, even if the catastrophe had never occurred, they were never human, anyway.

Idea for a story. Brazilian transexual in Paris decides to "become male again". As she tries to contact her family and old friends in her fragile manner, she only receives contempt. Second chapter, Lagoa da Prainha, night: an ethereal, faceless figure in a nightmare tells her she needs to take revenge, that her longing for authenticity was semi-bogus and that she was living someone else's life, that she was an imitation on many levels. She weeps. She wakes up and winter is on again. Third and last chapter: rage becomes calm. It doesn't matter what she'll do with her body, this is not a novel about "becoming male", though even less about “becoming human”. She thinks she’s finally moving towards recognition, responsibility and choice, a human being in pursuit of happiness, but she can hardly acknowledge that these lines, too, come from elsewhere. What is moving here is her illegitimate serenity, the ephemeral feeling of freedom and fearlessness; its tender irony. This is not a movie, it is an entirely first-person story written in Portuguese. It is extremely self-conscious but not cynical and is fully dedicated to the memory of R. W. Fassbinder.

5. R.

Idea for a story

Satirical novel. Fortaleza, 2010s. Transexual "R." is a dominatrix. Contested facts include her birth date, place and obviously her name. Barefoot, she rides a purple motorcycle on the coast ("How tragic! I can hardly write..."), she never sweats, no one knows where she magically hides the pink helmet. She seduces and imprisons Italian tourists looking for prostitutes, then yells at them, "My love for you won't die! Such bliss." This is not a novel of resistance, but punishment: the prose must be cold as a knife ("'Caipirinha? I'm the caipirinha, you motherfuckers. And these are m-y breasts, m-y aerial boobs', she draws imaginary circles with her nails."). R. asks for no mercy, she seduces Mrs. Albuquerque, the mayor, and prevents the destruction of a historical square. She used to go to karaoke, but after she fell in love she does not sing anymore: she is beyond pushing at the power base ("Watch me fall like skibunda!")

6. RATS

Idea for a story. Mass murder of homosexual men in 2010s Paris. All cases are the same, strangling. Loud debates on the media and social networks about "human rights", Parisian intelligentsia wants everybody’s testimony. The story proceeds through the eyes of a young immigrant who can barely follow the news and seems more worried about creating a new self. He finds a group of friends. They build a small society of love and hide forever. The last chapter is an orgy written in the first person plural. Tender if pessimistic message: collective and mutual adherence (Whitman's dream) may exist, but cannot be macrostructural.

7. AN INTERLUDE

Idea for a story

Earth tells ### story. "###" means many possessive pronouns at the same time, and both more and less than possession itself.

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Idea for a story

A dog enters a room and barks, as if to indicate a treasure buried there. It will never be found, like love, like literature.

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Idea for a story

All their lives were a preparation for this moment: fuck. As their minds go blank, they forget that eruption is already happening.

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Idea for a story

São Paulo. A blind woman dubs boleros for money in the subway. No one notices she is lip-synching. One day she has an emotion. A lawyer, specialist in intellectual property rights, watches her. He has an emotion, too. This section is called The Impersonator's sweet revenge.

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Idea for a story

A writer listens to rhythms from other worlds. As pages multiply, simulation leads to monstrosity, suddenly the beats have a life of their own.

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(The difference between a dream and a nightmare is not thematic, but tonal. Tones can be reworked and provoke relief, or despair. Sometimes distressing tones may lead to optimism in an unorthodox way, and sometimes hopeful ones to cynical laughter. Tones may point to different world views, but this is reductive. Most of the time they are variations of temperament, or exercises of style. We cannot seriously discuss the "world" if we ignore tones. This because: we have dreams and nightmares every night.)

8. THE STORY OF MY EXPERIMENTS WITH TRUTH: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY

Idea for a story

Brazilian Northeast, 2010s. 70-year-old literature teacher looks back over his years. He tells how he moved from communist to trotskyist to neoliberal humanitarian, wearing white and Ray-Ban sunglasses on missions in East Africa. A full account: feelings of illegitimacy, helplessness, erotic flashbacks. He is confused by new disciplines: comparative literature, postcolonialism, translation studies, digital humanities, posthumanism, ecocriticism, "theory". He is familiar with the Internet but not with English or globalization, he is not familiar with the vocabulary: this is an old man moving towards forgetting and happy dementia. He still lives in the same apartment in the same fractured, claustrophobic city, with his wife, he has grandchildren. Once a year he prepares a dinner for his friends from Mozambique. The tone is nostalgic and elevated, which does not mean he is free of a cruelty bigger than him. Wholly written in first person, to my father.

9. VIOLENT TROPICS (BOURGEOIS DRAMA, B&W, 110’)

Idea for a story. "Trópicos Violentos"

Fortaleza, early 1990s. Miguel, literature teacher in his forties, falls in love with his student Pedro. Their romance lasts until Miguel suddenly dies. Second part: Pedro tries to bring Miguel back to life with a first-person monologue in which he incarnates his lover. This is not a light-hearted novel: both men despise politicians, oppression and simplicity. They are both miserable, derivative and monstrous. Both pleasure-seekers and alcoholic. Fortaleza isn’t "exotic", but claustrophobic and empty. Pedro won't fall in love again. He becomes a sad adult, his colleagues say he’s cold and theatrical. To which he answers, in the novel's last line, It is my only way and I suffer, understand that.

10. CAJUEIRO MORTO

Idea for a story

Disappointed with the news of another massacre, Arthur recalls his early years as an anthropologist who long argued for Indigenous peoples' rights, in central Brazil, Peru and Alaska. Once he wrote a memoir, The Half-Native, which seems now forgotten and pointless and blank. But it seemed important at that time. He is in Parnamirim, Rio Grande do Norte, to see the world's largest cashew tree, ‘o cajueiro do Pirangi’. Its branches are heavy and falling. For a second he imagines they’re just as dead as----Hesitation

Steps

“Where the fuck he’s going?” Sunlight. Here.

11. THE ENIGMA. A PANG.

Yesterday lying in Berghain garden

Yesterday lying in Berghain garden
half-assured 
that when Hamlet comes to 
demystify the castle's hidden forces
he has little patience 
for explaining himself or 
being reasonable

The recognition is not reasonable. It is 
paralyzing, arrogant and fatal.
(In the sense that it cannot be undone, 
and that he's going to die) 

From now on, his phrases come out as
clean and sharp 
as if there isn't any anger left 
- "Words, words, words", "The readiness is all" - 
and he becomes more and more silent

Yesterday lying in Berghain garden
cigarette in hand
hair longer than ever
destroyed 
black leather shoes pointing to the full moon

Then a voice came with the beat from inside, 
"Stop 
acting 
Hamlet. 
This is not Elsinore castle, this 
is the heaven where all half-Hamlets come to dance."

12. THE ETERNAL BOOK OF EPILOGUES

Idea for a story

Global migration is happening Keep your concentration Species are dying No time for bullshit now OK Languages are dying Go somewhere else Someway Just don’t forget to destroy it when it’s done Or it will eat you out the living bodies Raw nerves and hollow bricks will contain The vision of the land the dead ones. Now
 

December 2014 – January 2015
August 2015

Luciano Brito lives and works in Paris.

Published on May 22, 2016.